Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Seeking solutions for Stewart's hospital crisis

The Northwest regional health district is expressing its "deep concern" to the Northern Health authority over the deteriorating level of health care in the Stewart region.

District Chairman Tony Briglio outlined the concerns of the district over the Stewart situation as well as the needs of other rural communities of the northwest when it comes to medical care.

Tuesday's Daily News followed up on their story of Monday, with another front page, headline story examining the crisis in Stewart and how the local district is trying to cope with the problems.

Regional hospital district is concerned as doctors resign and in-patient beds lost
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Pages one and three

Northwest regional health district Chairman Tony Briglio said that regional district is quite concerned about what is going on in Stewart regarding its bed shortages and the resignation of doctors.

On Monday, the Daily News reported that the District of Stewart is suffering from its worst health crisis since its previous hospital blew up more than 10 years ago.

Two doctors have recently resigned, citing a lack of infrastructure and the closure of overnight beds.

"The net result of the lab and x-ray techs not being there have resulted in one of the doctors there to resign and that leaves two doctors, who are a husband and wife team who both work part-time" said Briglio.

He said the NWRHD sent a letter Friday to Northern Health outlining its deep concerns about what is going on in Stewart.

Briglio added that the regional district was concerned about the fact that the hospital was not going to have in patient beds, which were taken away after the nursing hours were cut to daytime shitfs only.

“(The regional district) is asking how we can help, in order of getting over the hurdles that are in the way, because it is not that easy to recruit to communities like Stewart and I think that if we put our combined heads together there are ways around it to give a t least a life-line in as much time as laboratory technicians can be brought in,” said Briglio.

Northern Health has not committed to any solutions yet to address the situation, but it has said it will meet with concerned stakeholders to seek a suitable solution to the problem.

According to Statistics Canada, British Columbia ranks third in the country when it comes to the amount of health care employees in each provincial health care system.
With 198,000 employees, B. C. ranks only behind Ontario (476,000) and Quebec (325,000).
But in the North Coast there have been sever staff shortages, which have been blamed on recruitment-related issues.

UNBC expert on rural health services delivery, Martha McLeod, said that the best policy that either Northern Health or the provincial Ministry of Health can take at th is time is to work both with rural practitioners and rural community members, adding that it has become especially hard for rural communities to attract laboratory technicians.

“One of the things that does happen in rural communities is staff are being cross-trained with laboratory plus x-ray but you look at the volume in the particular place and you determine if there is enough volume to sustain in a particular community. Many communities do have those diagnostic people in the community,” said McLeod.

McLeod said there are a number of strategies that can be put into place. One is Telehealth, where communities can get a diagnosis as simply as a telephone conversation or as complicated as the transmission of medial images for diagnosis. However, that would take some x-ray training for the nurses.

Either way, McLeod says, a solution must be found for rural communities that are prone to hiring young practitioners.
“In small communities where you don’t have immediate back-up, it can be really scary. I know Northern Health is exploring ways of having telehealth connections where there is someone at the other end of the phone line regularly for consultation,” said McLeod.

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